5 Essential Keys to Successful IT Projects

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I was reading this article from HP on successful project management.   While there are more ways for successful project completion I think that they summed up the top 5 on my list of important factors for any project.

The first thing is to make a definite goal.  It’s the alpha and omega.  When you start anything (this goes for life too), you need to set up your expectation of what the project is going to look like in the end.  One of my favorite questions that I ask is, “What would you like to see at the end of the day/project?”

Having the right team is key but I think that having the right leader to figure out if the team is competent is better.  While the technical abilities of the team matter, the direction of the team matters more.  The article says to pick members for their skill and ability–This is good but building a team that can actually work together is harder.

Plan, plan, plan.  The projects that I’ve worked, on a good majority of time is spent on planning.  What happens without a plan?  Countless hours of collaboration are spent on follow ups and new direction.  What’s the difference between project scope and planning?  The scope will puts a boundary on what the project is supposed to look like in the end while the plan lays out how your are going to do it.  This is mainly for the team performing the work.

For me, out of this list, communication is #1.  We all communicate in different ways and sometimes different languages.  The article I wrote, “Managing Customer Expectations,” is not only for customers.  You want to do this with your team members and with people you interact with daily.

Learning new technology is good but not key for IT projects.  I think this is an exercise that the team members should go through.  From my experience, the only situation where this is handy is when your CEO walks up to you and says, “Did you hear about _____?  I just read about it in ‘CEO type magazine’.  We should implement it.”  Alarms go off and then I usually come back with some pros and cons about the product.  I’ve also been in a situation where I was caught off guard and had nothing to say–it was very awkward.

Here’s a snippet from the article:

1. Make sure the project scope is justified and supported
Before starting any project, there should be evidence to support that the project will have or promote value. Once that has been established, a “project champion” should be assigned to ensure the project can be justified and managed throughout its lifecycle. Then, ensure the project has support across the organization before building the actual project team. Even in smaller businesses, gaining a common understanding and across-the-board commitment before undertaking a project helps prevent inter-departmental sparring over resources, priorities and commitments.

2. Put the right people on the team
When selecting project team members, pick them for their skills and abilities as they apply to your particular project, and strive for a mix of different sets of skills and abilities that together represent all you need to complete the project. In your first team meeting, make sure everyone is clear about their role and responsibilities, and delegate tasks as appropriate.

3. Plan ahead to ensure a successful project
It’s been said so many times it’s nearly lost its meaning, but the fact is that comprehensive project planning is absolutely crucial to success – even in projects with tight timelines. Figure out what deliverables you really need, then prioritize them to keep the project team tightly focused on specific issues – determine short-term “must-haves” (e.g. one to three months) and long-term goals (e.g. one to three years).

4. Keep communicating and collaborating
Regular communication between project team members and stakeholders is vital to keeping a project on track. Team members should hold weekly meetings to discuss issues and potential solutions; if the team is geographically diverse, use collaboration tools to hold meetings and share information. Make use of project management software tools that keep project managers and team members informed of progress and help avoid miscommunication.

5. Never stop learning
Successful project management can sometimes be based on trial and error, so you should be keeping track of your own internal best practices for future reference. Conduct project “post-mortem meetings” to understand what worked, what went wrong, and how successful the project was, based on your internal metrics.

References: http://h30458.www3.hp.com/us/us/smb/822382.html?jumpid=em_di_505454_US_US_0_000_hpc_us_822382_across-bg&dimid=1059170958&dicid=taw_Jul09&mrm=1-4BVUP

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